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Guest Blog Feature: Brittany Shives

Mamas, meet Brittany. A teacher turned stay-at-home mom. Today, she’s taking over the blog with some brilliant (and easy) ideas for some toddler learning activities.

I grew up my entire life knowing I wanted to be a teacher. When I had my daughter I decided to leave the classroom and put my teaching career on hold. However, after I had my second baby, I realized that I needed to be more intentional with learning activities for my toddler.   We were spending more time at home because of my newborn’s demanding schedule and we needed a change of pace. After a quick search on Pinterest, I realized there were thousands of learning activities that brilliant moms had already come up with.

Obviously, I didn’t have a lot of extra time (or funds) to devote to planning any sort of elaborate activities. Research has shown time and time again that play is the very best type of learning for kids, especially toddlers. I decided to start out with just one intentional activity a week and slowly add in more if it was something that was working for all of us.

It turned out that these activities were a huge hit with the whole family! I loved getting to dabble in lesson planning again and both my girls loved the intentionality of our activities. My husband even loved coming home and seeing how much they were learning!

Learning at home is not just something for stay-at-home moms or former teacher moms. Anyone can plan learning activities for their toddlers! Here is my list of must-haves for any parents who want to be a little more intentional with learning at home:

A planner: I quickly discovered that if I didn’t have a plan for an activity at the start of the day, it was not going to happen. You don’t need anything fancy, even a composition book will do. You just need a place to collect your ideas and notes so that when the time comes you will have any necessary supplies prepped and ready to go. For me, it works best to spend a little time planning and organizing on the weekend so that everything goes effortlessly during the week.

Books: As a former teacher, I just can’t emphasize this one enough. Even in my fifth grade teacher days, my number one piece of advice for parents was to have their children read. Every single day. Books can be expensive so we put them on our wish lists for holidays. We go to the library every week. We check out used bookstores and garage sales. Our house is covered in books and it’s the best kind of mess there is. If the only learning activity you ever do with your child is read to them, you will have done your job.

Plastic storage bins: Another important element of learning in the early years is sensory play. I try and set up a sensory activity once a week. My grandpa built us a sensory table that holds two plastic storage bins. You definitely don’t need the table, but I would recommend getting one or two plastic storage bins for sensory play. Over time your kids will get better with keeping all the fun contained in the box and cleanup will be so easy. The best part of sensory play is that most materials you need, you probably have on hand or cost just a few dollars. Some of our favorite sensory bin activities are water beads, dried corn, rice, spaghetti noodles and plain old water. Throw in some different kitchen utensils and set your kids loose!

Washable paint: Painting is so fun for toddlers! It also can be pretty messy, so washable paint is key. Honestly, you don’t even need paint brushes. We use all different objects to paint. We use our hands, toothbrushes, q-tips, leaves, feathers, and cotton balls. The possibilities are endless with paint and a little bit goes a long way with toddlers!

Shower liners: One of the biggest concerns parents seem to have with learning activities is that they can be a lot messier than your average toy play time. My secret weapon to combat messy play is my trusty 97-cent shower liner. I just spread it out before a potentially messy activity and then roll it up when we are done.

If I haven’t sold you yet, let me just paint a picture for you. Imagine that you set out a learning activity for your toddler and then you enjoy fifteen minutes of peace to drink your coffee hot, or start dinner or just enjoy the quiet. Planning intentional activities not only encourages learning for your child, but it also can save your sanity on difficult days. I hope you are encouraged to try out some learning activities with your child!

Brittany is a former fifth grade teacher and now a mother of two girls.  She spends her days reading lots of books, putting on an endless amount of tutus and hanging outside in sunny Southern California.


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